US, Cuba foreign ministers to meet in Washington on Monday

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Washington on Monday, the State Department said on Friday, as the two countries formally restore diplomatic ties severed more than 50 years ago.

Reuters| Last Updated: Jul 18, 2015, 05:56 AM IST

Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Washington on Monday, the State Department said on Friday, as the two countries formally restore diplomatic ties severed more than 50 years ago.

Rodriguez will be in Washington for the reopening of the Communist state`s embassy, a hugely symbolic step in the thawing of relations between the countries initiated by President Barack Obama and Cuba`s President Raul Castro in December.

The U.S. embassy in Havana is expected to reopen formally in August and Kerry will visit the country on that occasion.

State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Kerry and Rodriguez would hold a news conference after their meeting.

Kirby said he expected them to have "a substantive discussion," adding that there were "many issues that are still active in terms of discussion."

As well as ceremonies at the Cuban embassy, a Cuban national flag will be added to the display of flags at the State Department representing all the countries with which Washington has relations.

The two top diplomats also met in April for at least two hours during the Summit of the Americas in Panama, at which Obama and Raul Castro also held talks.

Obama`s decision to move toward restoring full diplomatic ties followed decades of mutual antagonism after U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island on Jan. 1, 1959, as Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries seized control.

John Foster Dulles and Gonzalo Guell were the last U.S. and Cuban foreign ministers to hold a formal meeting in Washington on Sept. 22, 1958, a U.S. official said.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations in 1961 and imposed a tough trade embargo that Cuba blames for many of its economic problems.

Obama has already relaxed some trade and travel restrictions but only the Republican-controlled Congress can overturn the embargo, and the U.S. president faces fierce opposition from some lawmakers.